This is a truly special album. I don't think it's gotten enough attention, and I've fallen in love with it, so I'm going to do a full review.
I'm a sucker for a unique vocalist. And Elly Jackson is certainly that. I'm a sucker for great melodies, too, which La Roux seems to have in abundance. I'm also a sucker for electronic music when it's done right, which, on this album, it is.
I know it can be tempting, but I've never liked electronic music for the sake of electronic music. The form is at its best when it takes advantage of its potential for complexity while remaining taseful. Ratatat, Justice, and Ladytron are good examples. La Roux's electronics are equally impressive, taking plenty of influence from the chiptune genre and 80s synth and adding just enough gloss. While the music is not always amazing by itself, merged with Elly's voice, it's sublime. It seems designed entirely to support her vocals, and it does so flawlessly.
Elly Jackson does some pretty remarkable things with her pseudo-falsetto. This is really highlighted on In For The Kill. Her phrasing in this song has subtle melodic quivers in just the right places. And of course there's the beautiful extended flourish at 3:37. She uses the pseudo-falsetto in Quicksand to create a sort of full-song-length swooning effect. In I'm Not Your Toy, it takes on an indignance. In Fascination, she seems to push it to its logical extreme just to show off (which works).
Elly sings the rest of the tracks in a more conventional and naturalistic mid-range, which, though less immediately striking, is actually much more expressive and emotionally revealing and has a lot of room for surprising textures. In Tiger Lily, for example, listen for the subtle dip when she sings the word "desire" in the chorus. One tiny detail does so much. Lyrically, the album is pretty much all about unrequited love and heartbreak, and this threads a certain affecting desperation throughout all the vocals. I'm sure it also helps that it's autobiographical. (She apparently broke down at times during the recording.) Another favorite vocal moment comes in the verse that arrives at 1:37 in Colourless Color. There's so much depth there that she somehow gets four syllables out of "really." There are many other moments of completely satisfying vocal subtlety on the record, but it really goes into full bloom in Armour Love. Elly's performance especially in the first half of that song is really something else. She reaches a level of sincerity there that I don't think is matched elsewhere on the album, not even on Cover My Eyes.
These are my favorite tracks:
2. Colourless Colour
3. In For The Kill
4. Armour Love
There's also the insanely catchy single Bulletproof, but the above songs, after a week of listening, are what have really endured for me.
Tigerlily is the album's masterpiece, in my opinion. (You'll probably have to listen to it a few times.) The whole thing is just spine-chillingly brilliant, lyrically, vocally, melodically, instrumentally, and otherwise. And how can you not love 2:19?
Colourless Colour is a very mysterious song. It didn't jump out at me initially, but several days after first having heard the album, it just clicked. Firstly, I have no idea what it's about, but the lyrics somehow work. The first part of the chorus is inexplicably made up of three fragments—"Early 90s decor/It was a day for/We wanted to play but we had nothing left to play for"—which doesn't make sense literally but has a definite emotional logic in the song. Mostly, though, I love the song's propulsive melody. I can't exactly explain it, except that I generally have a deep appreciation for great melodies and completely connected with this one.
In For The Kill is excellent songwriting, but it's mostly a showcase for Elly's vocal virtuosity, and it works for me every time.
The weakest tracks on the album are probably I'm Not Your Toy and Reflections Are Protection. Don't get me wrong, they're decent, but just don't go looking for something that isn't there.
I sort of worry about the state of music journalism when everyone's obsessing about tiresome noise rock and something like Laroux, with all its artistry and vitality, is not taken seriously.